Because I publish my blog posts on Facebook and Twitter, they get put onto the WordPress dashboard, and there’s all sorts of weird and wonderful things like tracebacks and so forth, I know that not all of my readers are as internet-lingo savvy as the ones that come over here to take pity on me from Pharyngula (I love you guys !).
So I thought I’d put up a few posts, in lose order, and explain a few of the terms and lingo that are being used over there and across the net, to describe certain phenomena you come across in Internet discussions.
I’ll start things off with talking about a little known gem called the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Essentially, it’s conclusion is, “The Dumb are confident, and the Intelligent are doubtful.” More exactly, “The Dumb overestimate their competence, while the Intelligent tend to question and underestimate their competence”.
And not only will a dumb person overestimate their competence, they also lack the ability to recognise this.
Think any “Idol” competition you have ever watched on TV.
Bertrand Russell realised the Dunning-Kruger effect 100 years ago :
“The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt. “
Even Darwin knew about the phenomenon :
“Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge”
So basically, the DKE is a cognitive bias, where a person(and I used dumb above, it really means “unskilled or lacking knowledge in the field that’s being discussed)who is lacking skills or knowledge in a certain field, can not recognise their lack of competence in that field.It’s simple, the more you know about something, the better you realise how much you don’t know.The less you know about something, the easier to think there isn’t so much at all to know.
It’s not all about misjudging knowledge in a field, though, but a general, kind-of built-in blind spot in perception of skill, and not only in areas of science or the humanities, but also in things as mundane as driving a car or knitting socks.
Kruger and Dunning proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:
1. tend to overestimate their own level of skill;
2. fail to recognize genuine skill in others;
3. fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;
4. recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they can be trained to substantially improve.
Meanwhile, people with true knowledge tended to underestimate their relative competence. Roughly, participants who found tasks to be relatively easy erroneously assumed, to some extent, that the tasks must also be easy for others.
Their original article, “Unskilled and unaware of it: How difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments”, published 1999 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, won an Ig Nobel Prize in 2000.
So next time you see someone boast about something and you have the sinking feeling they have no idea what they are talking about, you will know what’s going on ! Nobody is immune from the Dunning-Kruger effect , including you and me ! It takes honesty with oneself, and lots of practice, to recognise when, or that, you are wrong or not skilled enough in a particular area.